The Carolina Hurricanes have been on the verge of moving into a playoff spot for the last two weeks, but just can't seem to break through. Another road win might finally do it.
The surging Hurricanes look to win five consecutive road games for the first time in three years Tuesday night when they visit the Ottawa Senators.
Carolina (31-25-5) has been in ninth place in the Eastern Conference for most of February and now sits just one point behind Buffalo and Florida, which are tied for seventh with 68 points.
Playing well on the road is usually the mark of a playoff team and the Hurricanes have done just that lately. They have won four straight away from home for the first time since a five-game run Oct. 22-Nov. 14, 2005, the season it finished with the franchise's only Stanley Cup.
Although his club is still on the outside looking in, Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice has his sights set higher than eighth place.
"You look at the standings and you say, 'You're always chasing eighth,'" Maurice said following Carolina's 5-2 win over Colorado on Sunday. "But we're four points out of fourth."
Maurice's team has a good shot at moving into a playoff spot Tuesday. While the Hurricanes are facing the 12th-place Senators (22-27-9), Florida visits Eastern Conference-leading Boston and the Sabres are idle. Carolina has outscored its last three opponents 15-5.
On Sunday, the Hurricanes scored three unanswered goals after the Avalanche forged a 2-2 tie early in the second period. Joni Pitkanen had the go-ahead goal and Matt Cullen recorded his first career hat trick, adding an empty-netter with 32 seconds remaining.
"We've been playing some pretty good playoff hockey, I think," said Cullen who has nine goals in the last 12 games.
"I think the guys have realized the opportunity that we have in front of us. We're right on the doorstep. We've talked a lot about bringing a playoff mentality right now, and we've seen that the last few games and gotten results."
Although Carolina has outscored opponents 20-7 during its road winning streak, it has lost three of its last four in Ottawa, including a 5-1 defeat there Jan. 13.
The Senators have dropped three straight following a five-game winning streak and are coming off a 5-3 defeat at Montreal on Saturday.
Ottawa faced a 4-0 deficit for the second straight game before Dany Heatley's 28th of the season put the Senators on the board midway through the second period. Brian Elliott surrendered three goals on 17 shots before he was replaced by Alex Auld.
Heatley added another goal in the third period, giving him seven in his last six games. He has been very productive against the Hurricanes, collecting seven goals and four assists in the last seven meetings.
Center Jason Spezza also has given Carolina trouble, tallying four goals and 11 assists in the past nine matchups.
Tuesday is the opener of a season-high eight-game homestand for Ottawa, which is 1-3-1 at Scotiabank Place since Jan. 27, averaging 1.8 goals during that stretch.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson remains confident despite those struggles.
"It's going to be good," Alfredsson told the Senators' official Web site. "Playing some games at home, getting the crowd involved, playing some good games ... If we can put a good stretch together, it should be a great home run for us."